Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barbara Fischer, Ed.D., A.B.D., Pimentel's certified no-brainer, is back on the Journal Sentinel Opinion page...

I just randomly grabbed this little chunk of it. You really must go to the source to fully appreciate the stream of (un)consciousness style of the person who sat at a keyboard and pecked away, the Chairman of the Department of Business and Economics at Cardinal Stritch University.

I have news for many of you: The monopolist cannot hide from the laws of supply and demand.

Consider We Energies. If it charged $50,000 per month for energy use, we would have millions of frozen Wisconsinites and/or we'd find alternative sources of energy and/or move. In any event, We Energies would find itself with no customers, which would be cutting off its nose to spite its face. This obviously is an extreme example; however, it makes my point.

As Truman Capote said of Kerouac: "That is not writing. That's typing."

Ricardo Pimentel is the Editor of the Editorial and Opinion pages. The repeated appearances of this clownish nonsense reflects on him and the other editors. The lines of editorial control appear to reach down through the Editorial Board and Pimentel to an assistant editor for commentary.

I'm guessing that would be Mabel Wong, Perspectives Editor. If there is indeed an editor, why is there no editing in evidence?

Can this rag, the Journal Sentinel, sink any lower?

The power of a letter to a member of the WMC Board...

...I believe it is important to share with you that, for personal and philosophical reasons, I have resigned my seat as a member of the WMC Board of Directors.

David Wittwer,
President and CEO

Two weeks ago I wrote in this blog that I was ready to dump a long and happy business relationship with TDS Metrocom (phone and DSL internet connection) because I choose not to do business with a member of the board of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Here's the response from TDS President and Chief Executive Officer, David Wittwer. Click to enlarge

I am sticking with TDS. Wittwer's resignation and plea to retain my business speak eloquently of the influence we have with our consumer choices.

I'm really happy to remain a customer, in touch with the TDS staff and professionals who have provided great service over the years. And my opinion of Wittwer is up more than a few notches--he operates a good business that provides really good service and he is personally pragmatic.

One thing I always love about going to Cleveland for a few days is the Pee Dee

D'arcy, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3.28.08

Monday, March 17, 2008

Luck of the Irish...

Any time I hear those word--mostly sentimental nonsense from bogus Irish--I think about the luck of my grandmother. Let me tell the you the story of Annie Stanton, born 1876, at Inishgowla, wading-distance from Westport, County Mayo. Inish is Irish for island. One either sloshed in to shore in one's Wellies at low tide, or rowed in when it was high.

By the time of her birth, thirty years after the famine, it was clear that Irish society had collapsed. As had the population of Ireland. Between 1845 when the potatoes began to rot in the ground, and 1995 the Irish population declined from 8 million to 3.9 million. As much as it was hunger, it seemed more like the pervasive desperation that drove those numbers down, drove the Irish mostly to America and England and Australia.

There was little to keep a young person--no work, no vitality--little but neglect, garnished with swagger stick contempt, from the the Brits.

So Annie Stanton said goodbye in 1892, at 16, a schoolgirl who would never again see a classroom, never again see her parents, nor most of her siblings. Steerage from Liverpool, then Ellis Island. She traveled to Cleveland, Ohio. There, she worked for the swells in Bratenahl, a domestic, in service at the sumptuous residence of some captain of industry (Mark Hanna and William Gwinn Mather, and their ilk--iron ore, shipping and steel barons--were all in Bratenahl). The swells.

In 1904, likely at St. Malachi's, she met Peter Noonan, several years younger than herself, a structural iron worker who had also emigrated alone in his teens. Must have been a surprise to learn that she and Peter had been born and grew up six miles apart, she in Westport, he in Newport, but had to "cross the ocean wild and wide" to meet, to marry and to raise a family.

In a tiny rented house on Eve Avenue in the working class neighborhood of the near west side, in St. Colman Parish, (an offshoot of St Patrick Parish, which had been an outgrowth of St Malachi Parish. Did I mention it was an Irish neighborhood?).

Two beautiful boys, Francis and Thomas, born in '06 and '08, have lain for a century, side-by-side in Calvary cemetery. They died twelve days apart, in early April, 1910, both of pneumonia contracted when a fire swept through the the house, drove the whole family into the rain in the middle of the night.

Brought low with grief and loss, they endured and were blessed with four more children in the next, seven years. But, the "luck" of the Irish touched them once again. Days before my mother's seventh birthday her father, Peter Noonan, after a struggle of four days, died at age 38. It was the height of the influenza pandemic of 1919, but it was pneumonia, not the flu.

The next ten years were difficult for a frightened and reclusive widow and her four children under the age of ten. Annie, taking in washing and ironing, the older kids delivering 100 newspapers before school, and twice a month, filled with shame, pulling a wagon to the office that distributed outside relief.

Then, 1929; things got even more difficult. Annie Stanton Noonan, endured the Great Depression pretty much as everyone else of that generation did--stoically, with the support of family and the parish. Half way through that decade, a widow's pension, the initiation in 1935 of Social Security lightened the burden. But the times still demanded a superhuman level of endurance.

She died in the Spring of 1940. She had outlived her husband, two of her children and three of her own siblings who also had emigrated to Cleveland. But her relative longevity certainly included so little of that fabled Irish luck.

Forty-eight years in America. Never saw her parents again. Never, but in her dreams, saw Inishgowla. Only briefly held and sang to her first grandchild Never knew that her children's children would number 24, and their children almost 70.

The luck of the Irish, the sweet elusive luck of the Irish.

A bit like the luck of the Mexicans, the Hmong, the Dominicans, Tibetans, Hondurans, Bangladeshi, Nicaraguans, Libyans, Jamaicans. In this our nation of immigrants, I hear all manner of shrieking contempt for the new immigrants, driven by poverty to seek a life in America--a life always accompanied by enormous sacrifice--particularly by that first generation.

I'm a lucky Irishman, thanks entirely to the courage and endurance of my immigrant grandparents from the rocky and isolated coast of County Mayo in the West of Ireland. Not to diminish similarly hardy and hardworking forbears on the paternal side of the genealogy--Dutch and East Prussian ancestors who had fled the bloody insanity of post-Napoleanic war and glory--arriving earlier than the Stantons and Noonans.

But the tears, the loss, the alienation and the longing they endured and overcame doesn't look anything like that hokey leprechaun-with-a-pot-of-gold luck so prevalent on the tacky St Patrick's decorations in all the bars and stores and restaurants today.

It wasn't luck that saw them through; it was courage, endurance and sacrifice...and, of course, the music.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Use economic clout to hammer the arrogant Directors of WMC

Jim Rowen at Political Environment as well as the Illusory Tenant and Plaisted Writes have been focused on the bizarre Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) efforts to insure the election of a strange right wing bird to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Good work. This utterly cluesess waterboy for the fat cats, Michael Gableman, is an talentless, undistinguished lackluster, lightweight leaker being promoted by a collection of extraordinarily lackluster, lightweight leakers from the big bux lobby for Wisconsin Business and Industry.

In the midst of a Political Environment comments discussion of WMC on 3.11.08, a poster provided a list of the directors of WMC. I should have looked them up months ago. I found the President of TDS Telecommunications listed there--David Wittwer.

Hey, I send Wittwer $70 a month.

I wrote him a letter. I told him that I had nothing but appreciation for the superb service received from people in his employ over the past five years, as they helped me with Internet DSL service and occasional problems, telephone service, billing questions.

Then, I told Wittwer I was dumping his company ASAP. The Reason? HIS involvement as a member of the decision-making body of the WMC.

I gave him the details:

1. The WMC involvement in mindless sabotage of the Great Lakes Compact.

2. The WMC backing of ethically-challenged Annette Ziegler for Supreme Court.

3. The backing by WMC of the useful idiot, Michael Gableman for Supreme Court.

I may or may not hear from Wittwer. But--and I'm speculating, here--IF a significant number of his Wisconsin customers tell him directly that his backing of retrograde candidates and policies in Wisconsin political life will be met with a revenue and public relations hit for him and his company, he might begin to get a message.

Anyone out there using TDS?

Consider the possibilities in sending Wittwer a cancellation notice that connects directly to his WMC activities. Let's begin to use our consumer clout to counter the big bux arrogance of WMC.

If you do not have a TDS connection, look for other WMC Board members—bankers, publishers, etc., anyone who wants to sell you a product or service—who may be susceptible to economic leverage from customers who will cancel orders and services in the face of WMC actions that show contempt for environment , justice, working class incomes, savings and investment, etc. You can also get the list of WMC Directors in the comments after the Political Environment post on March 11.

P.S. My personal regrets to all of the really great TDS employees who have labored to give me an outstanding level of service for the past five years. This is entirely due to the stupid, backward-looking, dishonest meddling in Wisconsin's political life by the TDS President and CEO, their employer, David Wittwer, elected member of the Board of Directors of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You may not like the kind of chicken that comes from Pilgrim' may not like the way they feed and process them for market, BUT....

Pilgrim's Pride to close N.C. facility
No. 1 poultry processor blames ethanol push for driving up feed cost
Bloomberg News

Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the world's biggest poultry processor, will close an N.C. chicken-processing plant and six distribution centers and cut 1,100 jobs, blaming U.S. ethanol policies for pushing the industry into "crisis."

The company is considering closing other production facilities, citing oversupply and a "crisis facing the U.S. chicken industry" because of rising feed costs. Costs have surged along with the price of corn, which reached a record $5.795 a bushel Tuesday in Chicago. U.S. mandates promoting ethanol use led to record demand for fuel derived from crops.

"Our company and industry are struggling to cope with unprecedented increases in feed-ingredient costs this year due largely to the U.S. government's ill-advised policy of providing generous federal subsidies to corn-based ethanol blenders," chief executive Clint Rivers said in the statement.

"Based on current commodity futures markets, our company's total costs for corn and soybean meal to feed our flocks in fiscal 2008 would be more than $1.3 billion higher than what they were two years ago," Rivers said.

The company's plant in Siler City, about 100 miles northeast of Charlotte, employs about 830 people. Pilgrim's Pride will shut distribution centers in Oskaloosa, Iowa; Plant City and Pompano Beach, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; Nashville, Tenn; and Cincinnati.

The Siler City facility represents 1.5 percent of the company's processing capacity and 0.4 percent of the industry's, Credit Suisse analysts led by Robert Moskow said in a note Wednesday. "While the move won't do much to choke chicken supply, this is a step in the right direction for the industry."

Ethanol subsidy--inducing farmers to plant more corn, then turn that extra food (and often a lot more that the extra)--into fuel for SUVs and monster trucks that get horrifically bad mpg ratings, not to mention all the latest vroom-vroom muscle cars for NASCAR idiots has devastating consequences। Huge layoffs of workers barely on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, devastation of one-company towns, higher food prices।. And, of course, the financial sector sees throwing thousand of workers out of jobs as a "step in the right direction".

Anything, absolutely anything, aimed at keeping the cars and trucks running in "happy motoring" mode, will be seen as salvation of the American way of life. This is sick and twisted.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You damn well better submit to our tender mercies...

March 11, 2008 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Waukesha Edition
Man shocked after confrontation

A Waukesha man who was shocked with a Taser gun after police went to his home to check on his welfare late Sunday was charged Monday with obstructing an officer. Randall L. Spenner, 44, was charged with the misdemeanor after a friend in Arkansas called police just before midnight Sunday after she had been unable to reach him on the phone. The woman, who met Spenner when they both worked for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, was concerned about his serious diabetic condition.

Police went to the 2600 block of Pebble Valley Road, but he wouldn't answer the door. The apartment building manager opened the door for police. Officers entered the dark apartment announcing repeatedly that police were there. When they opened Spenner's bedroom door, he was in the bed and pointing a handgun at the officers, the complaint says.

The officers exited the apartment and returned with shields, demanding that Spenner come out of the apartment.

The police demanded five or six times that he come out and show his hands. Spenner came out, but was yelling profanities. He refused to go to the ground and when he quickly approached one of the officers, he was struck with a Taser, the complaint says.

Spenner was taken into custody and later told investigators that he took an Ambien to help him sleep and never heard the police announcing themselves. An unloaded Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver was found underneath Spenner's pillow. Ammunition was found in a nearby closet, the complaint says.

I don't know Mr. Spenner, but--if he approves, and if the Waukesha Police persist in pushing this charge--I will work to have a few, or perhaps a dozen, maybe a score of citizens to provide moral, financial, and political support/pressure on the Police Chief, The Mayor, The City Council and the Fire and Police Commission to end this kind of out-of-control police behavior.

I'm not going to encourage this victim of police over-reach and excess to "Sue them". But that's only because I and my neighbors are the "them," who will pay the financial damages. But I promise to certainly push to have the whole use of and supervision of the use of Tasers made much more accountable.

Overload the police with victimless crimes and other minutiae and eventually only creeps and bullies remain cops. -- Rick Gaber

Friday, March 07, 2008

From the "highlight reel" of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel...

Please don't get me wrong. I liked athlete Brett Favre as much as the next fan. But the non-stop "news" both on the tube and in the paper have seemed...well, disproportionate.

This photo in the morning MJS caught the quarterback at an emotional moment. And the emotion that induced the tears is, no doubt, genuine.

But, does anybody else get the suspicion that there might have been some MJS photoshopping at work. There's something about the highlights in this photo that doesn't seem right.
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Real estate collapse.... close to home.

When our family moved to a nice older (platted in 1924) neighborhood on the edge of Waukesha's central / downtown area, we were struck by the desafinado ambiance of a tiny cottage on the lot next door. It was non-conforming as to setbacks, both from the street and from the neighboring (our) lot. It was owned by the family who sold us our new house. I was offered the cottage along with the house we wanted to move into. $56 Thousand. It was touted as having reasonably good tenants and a good rental that would have easily covered PITI with some left over--and the possibility of appreciation.


Landlording always seemed to me a pain in the butt. But there was the possible upside of being able to have some control over who lived that close to my lot line. And, while the cottage was tiny, the lot was normal size with four healthy towering shade trees and a yard that was nicely fenced. I occasionally worried someone who lived there might think it'd be cool to have three Doberman Pinschers and a Pit Bull.

Still... Nah!

Sixteen years later...

Two utterly gentle and quiet (whew!) Chocolate Labradors later.

Three owners later, including an unprincipled flipster who introduced himself as a Christian investor.

Two foreclosures later.

A 2007 City of Waukesha tax bill of $3,064, based on assesed value of $126,000.

The foreclosure paperwork published in late summer, 2007 by Abby O'Dess, Esq.--apparently the go-to law firm for dispossessing the foreclosed-upon (If you ever get a letter from the office of Ms. O'Dess and her Associates start packing up), indicated that the bankers had been stiffed to the tune of $112 thousand. At the auction on the courthouse steps on Feb. 4, 2008, the sheriff announced that the lienholder wished the bidding to start at $93 thousand.

Not a peep from the assembled dozens of bottom-feeders.

Today I called the real estate agent who has now been given the property to dispose of.

Asking price: $59,900.


It is in better shape than it was in 1992. It has a new roof. The twenties era, never-
properly-dismantled septic tank has been dug up and taken away (at considerable cost). It has miraculously morphed into a substantial residence with 953 square ft. of living space, this in spite of the clearly observable fact that the footprint is identical to what it was in 1992 when it was described, listed, appraised and assessed as a cottage with about 840 sq ft. of living space. Perhaps this was the work of the pliant and eager-to-please appraiser who worshiped alongside flippo-man at the altar of greed and mendacity.

But, it has a basement. A basement dug some twenty years after the house was built in 1930. They carried the dirt up the "basement" stairs in buckets, I'm told. It is a basement that has sometimes been full of enough water to let the homeowner paddle a kayak down there.


Did the bank price this shack knowing it would kill them if they have to hold on to it until the housing market begins to recover?


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ralph Nader

As one who has never been a member--or even a hanger-on--of the Democratic Party, I cringe recalling the very first presidential vote I cast--six weeks after my 21st birthday, in a voting booth in Austin, Texas--for Elbie Jay. I didn't vote for another Democrat until 2004. And that makes me cringe anew. The very first as well as the most recent ballot I marked for U.S. President were for candidates who never should have had the job.

And I part company with people I most often find agreeable, sensible and mostly rational over votes for Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000. I am not, I repeat: not responsible for G.W. Bush being in the Presidency.

Albert A. Gore was for 32 years elected to the US Congress, the last 18 of those years as the senior Senator from Tennessee. His son, Al Gore served four terms in the U. S. House of Representatives, then was an 8-year incumbent as the Senator from Tennessee, followed by 8 years as Vice President of the United States.

Yet, Al Gore couldn't win the electoral votes from his own state. What he did win was the popular vote in Florida. Then, he folded his tent and refused to fight for what was his. He handed the office to Bush. Does anyone remember who he chose to be a heartbeat from the presidency, his VP running mate? That would be Joe Lieberman. Joe and I have only one thing in common. Neither one of us has a shred of connectedness to the Democratic Party.

I long ago resolved I wouldn't vote for people who pass muster only as the least-worst of a bad lot.

I don't apologize for voting for Ralph. In all his life in politics and leadership of citizen action/activism he has done astonishing service to his county and for ordinary people. I like him best for what he has never done. He wouldn't think of doing what every Democratic Party standard-bearer for the past thirty years has done--make the pilgrimage to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to swear that he/she will never deviate from the political program demanded by that organization in exchange for votes and campaign contributions.

As long as powerful quasi-external actors like AIPAC and CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) and their lobbying and their threats to use vilification routines continue to hold sway over all candidates in our presidential elections, I'm sticking with Ralph and Dennis, the most recent in a line of candidates I've liked: Dick Gregory, Benjamin Spock, Frank Zeidler, David McReynolds, Jack (not Jackie) Gleason, Ron Daniels, Ralph (twice).

Read Barack Obama's AIPAC speech one year ago today. Listen to what he has promised to do.

Change? Obama's mantra is "Change"? Not on Middle East policy. As long as AIPAC has him on a leash there will be no change, just more of the same. And Obama's position follows Hillary Clinton's policy promises, practically word-for-word.

Here's a trenchant analysis from AlterNet of the stranglehold of AIPAC on the entire Democratic Party:

"...during the 2004 campaign Howard Dean called on the United States to be an "evenhanded" broker in the Middle East. That position enraged party leaders such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who signed a letter attacking his remarks. 'It was designed to send a message: No one ever does this again,' says M.J. Rosenberg of the center-left Israel Policy Forum. 'And no one has. The only safe thing to say is: I support Israel.' In April a representative from AIPAC called Congresswoman Betty McCollum's vote against a draconian bill severely curtailing aid to the Palestinian Authority 'support for terrorists.' "

I believe--and there is good evidence--that AIPAC represents only a small-- but emboldened and too-often-catered-to--minority of Jewish-Americans, as well as a bunch of fundamentalist christian-zionists from outer space. The mystery is why American politicians continually tailor their foreign policy in the Middle East to such a fringe group. AIPAC exercises its members' constitutionally-blessed and incredibly skilled rights to lobby the Congress and the Executive. It gets ugly when anyone else who advocates for a peaceful two-state solution, advocated by enormous numbers of Israelis, Palestinians and Jewish-Americans gets smeared by the hard-liners as "Israel-haters".

One need only read the comments in Haaretz after any columnist writes on American presidential politics to get a feel for the polarization.

Words to live by:
The only vote wasted is the vote cast for someone who should not have the job.

Ralph Nader is a great American. I'm going to vote for him. Again.

The Next Slum

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Think twice before heading west to realize your dream home... and perhaps read this interesting take on the future of suburbia in this month's Atlantic.

Thirteen sq. miles of land--farmland (mostly fallow), woodland, and marshland on the southern and western borders of the City of Waukesha are going to be within the city limits in the next two decades, according to planning documents and the pipe dreams of developers and City Administrators who see that development as a new source of revenue for running a growing city.

The Mayor, the Planning Commission and the Water Utility want badly to see all of this developed as "upscale," housing for high income new residents. They definitely do not want any "downscale" houses built.

But, Slum?

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.